Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Haitian Haggis

Well, these are my last hours in America. There were so many friends I didn't get to say goodbye to and that pains me. But there's never enough time. But those bitches better come visit me, that's all I have to say about that.

Tonight, I fly to the Shire and try "something new". Already I've been getting the jokes--'so when are you gonna make some Haitian haggis?'
Those who know me, know I LOVE food. Technically, I guess I'd get called a foodie. I don't care about terms. I love food. I love making it, talking about it, studying it, learning its history, its cultural dos and don'ts (for example, we put catsup on our french fries but not in our baked potatoes; nor do we put butter on fries but we need it for the mashed tatters). And of course, I LOVE to eat food. It's one of the few things that makes sense to me.

Food, especially good food, I find, is one of the few things that really brings and holds people together in earnest.

My friends know I love to fuse, meld different culinary traditions--create something delicious between ingredients that often aren't married together.

But in Scotland, I have to first learn their food language. The few times I've been there, I have occasionally been stumped as what some of the dishes were or even recognizing some of the ingredients. Last summer, everyone kept talking about "rocket salads". The hell?! Was this some new leafy green that was unknown in the US? Was it illegal? And with a name like "rocket"...I don't know...did it get you high or something?
Well, after traveling to my future in-laws' cottage in the Highlands and helped picked the greens for our dinner salad from their garden, I found out that rocket was just plain ole arugula. The term rocket must come from a bastardization of the Italian word "rucola".

My move to the Shire will certainly extend my culinary skills. Interestingly enough, most of us (Americans) don't think of the Brits as having a distinct culinary tradition. And by distinct, I mean, delicious. Most of us think of fish and chips, maybe some boiled cabbage with cheap meat, and of course, for Scotland, haggis--something from the inside of a large mammal that got chewed up, spit out into the lining of a sheep's stomach, boiled and forced down the throats of the kilt-wearing, bag-pipe slinging unfortunates.

Oh and don't get me started on all that fried crap: deep-fried unidentifiable whitefish, fried frozen cardboard pizza, and even fried candybars! It's no wonder why they have the highest rates of heart disease in Europe.

But I can't skip the innards contribution to their food. The Brits do have that bad rap for eating haggis with gusto. I guess I can't say much on that, considering I've eaten hot dogs. And I do come from a culture that will and does eat everything off a pig-- "from the rooter to the tooter". Growing up, pig tails in red bean soup was my favorite. So, who was I to slam them for their manner of sausage-making? And anyone who's eaten scrapple (man, how Philadelphians love that stuff) shouldn't talk either!

As for the good stuff, teas, chutneys, jerk chicken, curries, etc., we imagine that it was appropriated when the Brits went a-colonizin'. While the Portuguese and and Spanish wanted new lands, to spread Catholicism, and oh yeah, maybe pick up some gold and silver, we joke that the lack of decent food was the true drive behind British colonization.

Whatever the reasons, I can actually say that I've enjoyed some amazing Brit food.
There are those amazingly creamy yet slightly pungent cheeses, grilled and poached cold Atlantic fish flavored with subtle herbs and vegetables such as thyme, tarragon and leeks. Quail, grouse, partridge roasted with a slab of bacon is hard to turn down. And can they cook some lamb! The Scots can do a lot with the tasty little bah-bahs making succulent, lean cuts that surpass (sometimes)a need for beef on your plate. Let me not forget the potato. Brits do know their way around the spud--whether cooked up in a soup with Haddock and cream, or cut up and baked with fat drippings and onions.
Desserts can be somewhat dense rich like butterscotch tart and pudding cake, or sweet, buttery, and light with scones, shortbread, Scotch pancakes with marmalade or jam.
I'll leave the whiskeys and other spirits for another day.

In the meantime, I gotta go pack.


At May 29, 2006, 1:05:00 AM, Blogger Texter said...

Hello, girlblue let me in on the secret that peggy was in the house. great post. i like the delectable descriptions, as well as the history lessons. they also remind me of the great food you've cooked and i've eaten! :) i'm going to add you to my blogroll... come visit.

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